Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Good Thinking

My daughter was cleaning her room and came across an old issue of a literary magazine that she and my son put together when they were in elementary school as a gift to me. They called the magazine Good Thinking. The opening page of one of the issues of the magazine reads as follows:

Good Thinking is published whenever the editors decide to publish it. Sometimes they are too busy to publish anything. This is the third issue of Good Thinking. The editors welcome contributions from anyone who is a child. Work contributed will not be returned and might be lost. The editors apologize in advance for your lost work. The editors would love to hear from you. The editors sometimes republish poems from past issues. They do not ask for your permission to republish your poems. Sometimes the editors discover typos in Good Thinking. The editors apologize for typos but do not correct them. Please send your poems and stories and artwork to Good Thinking at the address below.

Friday, December 18, 2009

How Many Wives?

I've been traveling way too much lately. I come back from cool places, and I remember the silliest details. What the cab driver said. Or what the stranger who ate lunch at the same airport deli was saying to his wife about the meaning of life. Take the cab driver in Providence. He was young, maybe in his twenties, from South Africa. He said he grew up in Paris and was writing a memoir about his life. He was going to tell about all the countries he lived in. He also wanted to tell the world how limited Americans are. How they don't travel, for example. They don't even go to Europe. They only speak English. What do you know about Africa? he asked. I admitted I didn't know very much, but that I had recently watched a film about Swaziland. I said that the king of Swaziland took a new wife every year.

What's wrong with that? the cab driver asked me. Africans do that in many countries, not just Swaziland. And why not? At least king is honest. At least his wives know where he is and with whom. In your country men take lovers. Think about Bill Clinton. He could have married Monica and his other women too. But Americans don't accept that. It's very silly.

How many wives do you think you will take? I asked. Oh, he laughed. It all depends of course. I'm not a king.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Reading in New York City

Sunday, December 6, 2009
5 pm

Nin Andrews
Miranda Field
Rachel Zucker

152 Ludlow (between Stanton & Rivington)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ad for the day

So now I know, it's my tights that are my problem! All I need is new tights, not a new body . . .
Do you think these tights squeeze your ass or something? Hold you in like a liquid corset from the waist down?

A little good news

This article made me happy. It's always nice to find some good news in the mix. Monsanto down, way down? Yeah!!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Blog Fears and Facebook

I've been a lousy blogger for months now. I've been hesitant to write anything at all. Even a little afraid.

I think my fear began months ago when my friend, K., said a blog is too exposing. I was way too exposed on my blog. People can know things about me. Isn't that a little scary?


Maybe I don't want them to know so much.

I suddenly felt as if there were naked pics of me . I suddenly felt as if there were something I should hide.

K. said Facebook was better. Much less personal. And so much more popular.

Facebook was a better place to be.

So I joined Facebook. And I lost interest in both the blog and Facebook.

The fact is, I don't "get" Facebook.

Almost overnight I had so many friends I'd never met.

(The word, friend, must have been redefined while I was blogging.)

When I check in on Facebook, I see all kinds of posts from so many new friends. I've never had so many friends in my life!

And some are friends I actually know! It's so exciting when I see a post from someone whose name I recognize.

What confuses me, though, are all the games. Or quizes. Or what are they? And who has time?

Someone posts that they have taken a quiz that reveals they have the soul of Bob Dylan and the Mona Lisa, all wrapped into one. Someone else posts he is King Arthur. Someone else posts they had grits for breakfast. Someone else says it's windy. Did anyone else notice the wind?

On special days an electronic friend sends me an electronic plant. I am invited to send my electronic friend an electronic plant back.

How romantic!

I am thinking this must be how you have unexposed friendships.

And roses too.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

I love Vallejo

Have You Anything to Say In Your Defense?

by César Vallejo

Well, on the day I was born,
God was sick.
They all know that I'm alive,
that I'm vicious; and they don't know
the December that follows from that January.
Well, on the day I was born,
God was sick.

There is an empty place
in my metaphysical shape
that no one can reach:
a cloister of silence
that spoke with the fire of its voice muffled.

On the day I was born,
God was sick.

Brother, listen to me, Listen . . .
Oh, all right. Don't worry, I won't leave
without taking my Decembers along,
without leaving my Januaries behind.
Well, on the day I was born,
God was sick.

They all know that I'm alive,
that I chew my food . . . and they don't know
why harsh winds whistle in my poems,
the narrow uneasiness of a coffin,
winds untangled from the Sphinx
who holds the desert for routine questioning.

Yes, they all know . . . Well, they don't know
that the light gets skinny
and the darkness gets bloated . . .
and they don't know that the Mystery joins things together . . .
that he is the hunchback
musical and sad who stands a little way off and foretells
the dazzling progression from the limits to the Limits.

On the day I was born,
God was sick,

Sunday, October 11, 2009

What a Week

Strange, sad, and good things happening:

Rick Bursky's wonderful book was accepted for publication. Rick and Claire Bateman, two of my favorite poets, will have books next year . . . I can't wait.

Barrack Obama won the Peace Prize. I keep thinking how Hillary Clinton and Anne Marie Slaughter won it, too.

A professor from the Ohio State Ag School asked me what I would do if I could do one thing to change the ag policy in the state. I said I'd request more public funding for agricultural research so that the universities were not depending on corporations for funding. Two days later Tom Vilsack asked for more public funding for universities for agricultural research. Verdad!

Herb Thomas asked me if I'd be interested in participating in the Spoken Word event in January in Cleveland.

NASA bombed the moon in order to find out if there's water.

We saw Traficant at dinner on Friday night. He came over to our table and greeted our friends. Rumor has it he might run for election against Wilson.

The great poet, Morton Marcus, is dying. His new book is forthcoming from White Pine Press, and from what I've seen of it, it might well be his best.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

How to Poop

I don't know, but this made my day today . . . an article in the Daily Intel on Alicia Silverstone.

Alicia Silverstone Will Teach You How to Poop

Alicia Silverstone has been a vegan for ten years, and with her new book, The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight and Saving the Planet, she hopes to convert the rest of us. "The truth is, there is a list of foods that will make you fat and make you sick and hurt you and make you older and tired and slowly deteriorate," she told us at last night's launch party at Candle Cafe. Like milk, for instance. "Remember, dairy was designed to make little baby calves turn into 400-pound cows, so that's what it does to you," she told us.

I'd like to point out that cows weigh a lot more than 400 lbs. And it's the corn, I think, not the milk that makes an animal fat.

Yep, same goes for people I'd guess. Vegan or otherwise.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My Fear of Brain Jello

I'm always amazed by the ability of people to fear -- and not to fear. The logic of fear in general.

President Reagan had that slogan, "There is a bear in the woods," to inspire fear of the Soviets. Wouldn't you rather know there isn't a bear in the woods? I think that was the implication of the ad. Or I guess we were supposed to become stronger than the bear and pour money into the defense industry.

And of course Dick Cheney and Brother Bush were all about fear. And they were elected because, I assume, we felt safer with Big Brother in office.

At the same time people are not afraid of various entities in their food. They tend to think, I assume, in terms of statistics, that they will be fine. And they are probably right. I guess.

Mad cow is a case in point. Some scientists says it's not a big risk. Others see it as a sleeping epidemic, something that will get inside a person and make his brain turn to jello in say--15 years. Sometimes sooner. Sometimes later. Who knows when your brain will turn into brain soup? Or jello, depending how long it lasts.

And so the US meat industry doesn't worry much about checking for Mad Cow Disease.

But the Europeans are more concerned. And so is McDonald's.

As long ago as 2001, McDonald's started to enforce stricter standards than the average grocery store. (And it wouldn't be hard because the standards are really weak. In fact the USDA has fought the organic beef co., Creekstone, that has wanted to test ALL its cows for Mad Cow.)

Me? Let's just say I'm a lot more afraid of what's on my plate than what's in my woods. I know I'm in the minority, but I am so grossed out by BSE. Brain jello.

Below are excerpts from two old articles on the topic.

Monday, March 27, 2006 LA Times
Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, an organic meatpacking company based in Arkansas City, Kansas, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for what the company claims is threats by the USDA that it would face prosecution if it proceeds with plans to test nearly 100% of its beef for Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease or BSE.
The USDA position is that allowing any meatpacking company to test every cow would undermine the agency's official position, . . .. .
The USDA currently tests about 1% of cattle slaughtered in the U.S. The USDA's objection is believed to be the result of pressure from larger meatpacking operations.

March, 2001
WASHINGTON -- McDonald's Corp. is starting on its own to enforce widely disregarded federal regulations aimed at keeping the nation's beef supply free of mad cow disease.
The fast-food giant has given packers until April 1 to document that the cattle they buy have been fed in accordance with the federal rules.

The Food and Drug Administration reported recently that hundreds of feed makers had failed to comply with its feed regulations, which are designed to keep the brain-wasting disease, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, from spreading if it ever reaches this country.

Europe's cattle industry suffered severe losses after consumers began shunning beef because of fears that humans can contract a similar brain disease from eating meat infected with BSE.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A beef about beef

There was a great article in the New York Times today on the beef industry. I think I should take it with me to poetry readings whenever I'm going to read my farm poems because I so often get asked if I would eat a burger today. When I say, Nope. I don't trust the meat sold in the grocery stores in this country, people tend to think I am a bit nuts. Which I am, of course, but if you read the article, well, maybe you'll be nuts too.

The article talked in particular about the risk of E. coli contamination and our lax or total lack of adequate testing and inspections . . .

Here are two excerpts . . .

"Ground beef is usually not simply a chunk of meat run through a grinder. Instead, records and interviews show, a single portion of hamburger meat is often an amalgam of various grades of meat from different parts of cows and even from different slaughterhouses. These cuts of meat are particularly vulnerable to E. coli contamination, food experts and officials say. Despite this, there is no federal requirement for grinders to test their ingredients for the pathogen."

"Yet . . . the hamburgers were made from a mix of slaughterhouse trimmings and a mash-like product derived from scraps that were ground together at a plant in Wisconsin. The ingredients came from slaughterhouses in Nebraska, Texas and Uruguay, and from a South Dakota company that processes fatty trimmings and treats them with ammonia to kill bacteria."

Add to this the fact that we test only 1% of all food imports,
that our food industry is in bed with our politicians
and as a result food is increasingly deregulated . . .

Yeah, okay, so it's not just beef I worry about. Sigh. But given a choice between beef and some nice GMO vegies . . . Hmm.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fall Readings

I will be reading . . .

Oct. 7

at 7:00
1925 Coventry Rd
Cleveland Hts., Ohio

Oct. 19
New School's Poetry Forum
on 6:30 PM
Room 510 of 66 West 12 Street, NYC 10011

Oct. 31
I will be lecturing on book contests
and the literary lottery
at YSU at 3:00
Details TBA

Nov. 11
I will be reading with Kazim Ali
at Mac's Backs ~ Books on Coventry
at 7:00
1820 Coventry Rd.
Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118

Nov. 19
Providence College
at 7:30
Details TBA

Dec. 6
I will be reading
at the CakeShop
on the Lower East Side at 5 pm
Details TBA

Dec. 16
7 PM
at the Bela Dubby Art Gallery & Beer Cafe
13332 Madison Avenue
Lakewood, Ohio

Jan. 16
The Wordsmith Book Shoppe
near Erie, PA
Details TBA

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I just finished the book, Middlesex. I think it's the best book I've read since I don't know when. I feel so sad to be finished. Maybe I'll start over again . . .

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Secret Red Book

I read in the Times yesterday that they are finally releasing Jung's Red Book. The Red Book was a carefully guarded book that his family kept in a safe, promising never to release it . . .

I love the idea of this secret book. Red, no less. Something not meant for anyone else to see.

Now I am sure it will be nothing but an embarrassment. A major disappointment.

I wonder why they didn't just destroy it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

from Delancey Place . . . Writers

In today's excerpt - famous writers and their odd ways of writing:

"Dame Edith Sitwell used to lie in an open coffin for a while before she began her day's writing. When I mentioned this macabre bit of gossip to a poet friend, he said acidly, 'If only someone had thought to shut it.' ...

"Sitwell's coffin trick may sound like a prank, unless you look at how other writers have gone about courting their muses. ... For example, the poet Schiller used to keep rotten apples under the lid of his desk and inhale their pungent bouquet when he needed to find the right word. Then he would close the drawer, but the fragrance remained in his head. ...

"Amy Lowell, like George Sand, liked to smoke cigars while writing, and went so far in 1915 as to buy 10,000 of her favorite Manila stogies to make sure she could keep her creative fires kindled. ... Balzac drank more than 50 cups of coffee a day, and actually died from caffeine poisoning, although colossal amounts of caffeine don't seem to have bothered W. H. Auden or Dr. Johnson, who was reported to have drunk 25 cups of tea at one sitting. Victor Hugo, Benjamin Franklin and many others felt that they did their best work if they wrote while they were nude. ...

"Colette used to begin her day's writing by first picking fleas from her cat, and it's not hard to imagine how the methodical stroking and probing into fur might have focused such a voluptuary's mind. After all, this was a woman who could never travel light, but insisted on taking a hamper of such essentials as chocolate, cheese, meats, flowers and a baguette whenever she made even brief sorties. ...

"Alfred de Musset, George Sand's lover, confided that it piqued him when she went directly from lovemaking to her writing desk, as she often did. But surely that was not so direct as Voltaire's actually using his lover's naked back as a writing desk. Robert Louis Stevenson, Mark Twain and Truman Capote all used to lie down when they wrote, with Capote going so far as to declare himself 'a completely horizontal writer.' ...

"Benjamin Franklin, Edmond Rostand and others wrote while soaking in a bathtub. In fact, Franklin brought the first bathtub to the United States in the 1780's, and he loved a good, long, thoughtful submersion. In water and ideas, I mean. ...

"The Romantics, of course, were fond of opium, and Coleridge freely admitted to indulging in two grains of it before working. The list of writers triggered to inspirational highs by alcohol would occupy a small, damp book. T. S. Eliot's tonic was viral - he preferred writing when he had a head cold. The rustling of his head, as if full of petticoats, shattered the usual logical links between things and allowed his mind to roam."

Monday, August 31, 2009

Health Care???

I've been so out of it lately. I didn't read the news in Maine, and now I keep thinking I'll catch up and understand what's happening. But I'm not sure anymore. The health care debate, for example. People actually like our system as it is? Are they nuts? An article in the New Yorker said that when Obama was running, most Americans said the system was terrible. But now that the govt. is thinking of changing it, most say it's fine.

So it's fear of change, the article claims. Wow. Hasn't it changed a lot already?

I remember in college when I broke my arm. It was $167. An ER visit. A cast . . .

As a kid, my sister almost chopped her finger off. The doctor came to our house and sewed it back on in our playroom. No ER trip. No wait or delayed bills coming months later . . .

Then I think how I had so many eye appointments and operations as a child. My mom paid the doctor every year with a Christmas ham. And I wrote the doctor letters, and he wrote me back! I called him up when I could finally hit the ball in softball and tennis. He was very excited. I felt as if we were working together for a common goal. He was like a coach. He visited our home and showed me all the pictures of my progress, from childhood to my teens . . .

Of course, that was unusual, but the doctors did seem more caring.

Back then the doctors were just as nice as vets who came to the farm and knew the animals and enlisted our help with the treatments.

Even now the vet calls me to ask how my pups are doing when they've had a sore ear or a bad tummy.

Cold Music

I love this early fall weather! But it isn't so great for playing music in the park! Yesterday Brady's Leap performed in the wind and cold. Brrrr! But it was fun all the same.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

UCS in Maine

One of the highlight of our time in Maine this summer was having Kevin Knobloch from the Union of Concerned Scientists visit and give a talk on climate change at the College of the Atlantic. Here he's talking to my sister from the top of Schoodic Mountain.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Summer in Maine

It's nonstop rain up here, but I love it anyhow. Something about the open spaces, the fog, the meadows, the salty sea smells, the scruffy mountains, the ice cold water . . . . Even the rain. Maine-it's one place on earth I really love.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Grand Master

It's been a blog-less summer so far. I can't quite keep up with things these days, I guess. And speaking of keeping up, I ran a race with my daughter on July 4, and I didn't stick around for the results. I'm not exactly the speedster on the block anymore, and I ran a pretty flat 7 minute pace. But today my daughter came home with a plaque for me . . . "Hey, Mom! You won the Grand Master prize!" Okay, there were 800 plus people in the race, but I doubt there were any women in my age group. Sigh.

So yeah. Now I get to be Grand Master.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I love these lines . . .

from one of my favorite poems.

The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind.
The paired butterflies are already yellow with August
Over the grass in the West garden;
They hurt me. I grow older.
If you are coming down through the narrows of the river Kiang,
Please let me know beforehand,
And I will come out to meet you
As far as Cho-fu-Sa.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

July 4 in Poland, Ohio

You never know when July 4th will happen here. Except you can be sure that it won't take place on July 4th. This year it happened on June 26th -- and came with the added pleasure of a Civil War re-enactment. I'm not exactly sure why this brigade of middle aged men and women moved into town, pretending to be Civil War folks. But they camped out in white tents on the town square for two nights, talked on their cell phones a lot, drank Cokes, and planted a line of porta-potties next to their tents. They marched up and down the streets at various times during their stay, sweating profusely and waving at the cars driving by. I made the mistake of asking one of the Civil Warriors what July 4 had to do with the Civil War. He just blinked a few times, took a bite of a hotdog, and said people like to learn about history.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Price of Poetry

I started 3 new poems this week, and I feel completely wiped out by them. I find it so strange that writing a silly poem or two takes so much out of me. I can run ten miles with greater ease and less physical pain than composing half a poem. That said, I still think the hardest job is farming. So many of my writer friends talk of my childhood on a farm as somehow merely bucolic. They seem to picture the act of farming as watching the alfalfa grow. What I remember was the feeling that the work would never be done. And unlike a poem, you can't just abandon the farm . . . And there was not much profit involved.

Maybe as a result, I tend to look up the news about the American dairy farmer. The independent small farmer, not the CAFOs. The news is never good. (It might be worse than trying to make a living as a poet.) The more we rely on CAFOs of course, the greater the environmental damage. I can't imagine why anyone would want to operate a factory farm. Ah well. Here's the latest:

"According to the USDA, the average cost of production for milk is $24.08 per hundredweight (cwt or 100 pounds), while the price dairy farmers were paid for their milk in April sunk to $10.78 cwt.

This means that dairy farmers are earning less than half of what it costs to produce their milk. Imagine having your salary cut in half and still trying to cover the same monthly bills. Even worse, feed and fuel prices are starting to go up in the past few months. For farmers, most of whom work too long of hours and are paid too little money, this is the perfect formula for a final liquidation of one of the last remaining independent segments of ag production. For years, small and medium-sized farms have relied on their dairy cows to stay relatively free from domination by factory farms and corporate agribusiness. But no longer. " (from Grist)

Of course, there aren't any reports on the average production costs for poets and writers. How much per weight in pages. And whether it costs more to produce than to write. Evidently if we could eat or drink poetry, it probably wouldn't help much--unless we could churn them out . . . and not worry about the quality. Who would know the difference? we might reason. One poem is as good as another. The more, the faster, the better. Sometimes when I have a glass of milk these days, I have to remind myself that this is milk I'm drinking. Not some cold white drink with a flavor of liquid white noise. No, this milk from a carton is nothing like the milk I drank as a child, the fresh milk with a taste of sunlight and grass and TLC.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Font for the Most Readers

I actually found an article in the bookstore last night on different fonts! Who would have thought! The article (from a marketing text) explained why one should use Times New Roman. It said that the choice of typeface can affect a reader's comprehension. Roman letters are preferred by most readers because they are the most comprehended, and can be understood 92% if the time. A close second is sans serif at 90%. The least comprehended --anything close to cursive or script. Such letters are only understood between 37% and 26% if the time.

I just love statistics.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Myth: The Cost of Climate Legislation Is Too High

This is really nice entry from Grist. Esp. relevant for folks in Ohio and other coal states. I have heard from several friends who say that their representatives are whining that it will hurt our economy if we institute climate change legislation. I find it so upsetting that politicians think only of the short-term. But this article is a really good response.

And please oh please (if you haven't already, I mean) write your congressmen today and tell them to support the Waxman Markey bill! It's only takes a few minutes to write a note.

"Legislators from dirty-energy producing states, energy-intensive business lobbies, and conservative think tanks struggle to outdo one another with apocalyptic predictions about the effects of mandatory greenhouse gas emission reductions. See, for example, the Chamber of Commerce’s video showing children shivering in the cold (really). As climate legislation evolves this year, the rhetoric is ramping up again, led by the Wall Street Journal editorial page and doomsayers-for-hire at the Heritage Institute and the Chamber of Commerce.

The mainstream media passes along this kind of Chicken Littleism in gutless he-said she-said fashion, so the public rarely hears the truth: mainstream economists pretty well agree that the impact of a carbon pricing system on the economy will be modest.

Last year EDF did an analysis (PDF) of six separate forecasts of the economic impact of a cap-and-trade, from leading nonpartisan academic and government agency sources. The median prediction was a hit to GDP growth of between 0.5 and 1 percent by 2030. Instead of doubling by January 2030, U.S. GDP would, in the most pessimistic scenarios, double by ... July 2030. (Doooomed!)

Some analysts are even more optimistic, projecting climate targets will be met at net-zero cost or even with a boost to GDP. Perhaps they recall that economists wildly overestimated the cost of the last U.S. cap-and-trade program; the sulfur dioxide trading regime, designed to fight acid rain, came in about 90 percent cheaper than official projections.

Here’s a short list of things that will damage the economy far worse than tackling climate change: the current mortgage/banking/credit crisis, rising fossil fuel prices, competitive disadvantage in burgeoning global clean energy markets, and, oh yeah, climate change itself. Compared to the alternatives, reducing climate emissions looks like a spectacular bargain. (For more on this economic consensus, see Eric Pooley.)"

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

One Thing I Hate about Summer

The one thing I hate about summer is lawn care. I know. I should have better things to think about. But I am always offending my neighbors by going natural. My yard is like the girl who refuses to wear a bra or shave her pits and legs, I sometimes think, remembering the 60s and 70s. But now, not many ladies go natural. And Chem Lawn owns most of the yards in these parts. Some of my friends keep telling me that the chemical fertilizers are actually natural. I won't go into that . . . But I will post an excerpt below from a New Yorker article that I find helpful.

(I know, I should be talking about poems, not lawns. But for many it seems their lawns and gardens are their poems . . . )

"The greener, purer lawns that the chemical treatments made possible were, as monocultures, more vulnerable to pests, and when grubs attacked the resulting brown spot showed up like lipstick on a collar. The answer to this chemically induced problem was to apply more chemicals. As Paul Robbins reports in “Lawn People” (2007), the first pesticide popularly spread on lawns was lead arsenate, which tended to leave behind both lead and arsenic contamination. Next in line were DDT and chlordane. Once they were shown to be toxic, pesticides like diazinon and chlorpyrifos—both of which affect the nervous system—took their place. Diazinon and chlorpyrifos, too, were eventually revealed to be hazardous. (Diazinon came under scrutiny after birds started dropping dead around a recently sprayed golf course.) The insecticide carbaryl, which is marketed under the trade name Sevin, is still broadly applied to lawns. A likely human carcinogen, it has been shown to cause developmental damage in lab animals, and is toxic to—among many other organisms—tadpoles, salamanders, and honeybees. In “American Green” (2006), Ted Steinberg, a professor of history at Case Western Reserve University, compares the lawn to “a nationwide chemical experiment with homeowners as the guinea pigs.”

Meanwhile, the risks of the chemical lawn are not confined to the people who own the lawns, or to the creatures that try to live in them. Rain and irrigation carry synthetic fertilizers into streams and lakes, where the excess nutrients contribute to algae blooms that, in turn, produce aquatic “dead zones.” Manhattanites may not keep lawns, but they drink the chemicals that run off them. A 2002 report found traces of thirty-seven pesticides in streams feeding into the Croton River Watershed. A few years ago, Toronto banned the use of virtually all lawn pesticides and herbicides, including 2,4-D and carbaryl, on the ground that they pose a health risk, especially to children."

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Simon Says

I love my new book of poems, Broken World, by Joseph Lease. So much of the book is a surprise. He really has a different muse . . . with lines like the following from "Prayer, Broken Off":

Simon says, put your hands on your head, Simon says, put your finger up your nose, Simon says you don't have enough, Simon says you don't care enough, Simon says, you can't stop caring--

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I love Al Gore

I was going to write something about writing, about my recent trip to Maine, about the incredible beauty of that state, especially at this time of year when the tourists aren't there yet, but then I saw this video of Al Gore. It's about a half hour long--sort of an updated, short version on An Inconvenient Truth. (It also takes a while to load, so if you want to watch it, be patient. )

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Michael Pollan's Fruity Pebbles

I love this --taken from a California blog:

" Bowl devotee Michael Pollan tells how a fellow shopper interrupted him to register disappointment that Pollan was buying Fruity Pebbles for his daughter. Damn skippy! If, after feeling guilty about my dietary transgressions due to reading the veritable avalanche of Pollan’s books and articles, I caught him slipping a box of Fruity Pebbles into his cart, I might be inspired to fling my own unripe avocado at his head."

Maybe Pollan should move to Youngstown. Here where the Fruity Pebbles are abundant, and cheap too, where the likes of a Michael Pollan would be happily anonymous. But then again, if he were buying some of that free-range arugula or some locally grown avocados--questions might be asked.

Yep, there are a few farmers around here who claim to already have some locally grown eggplants, avocados, pineapples, mangoes . . . maybe fruity pebbles too.

Isn't Frito-Lay now claiming to have some locally grown chips? I think so. I wonder if Pollan is adding chips to his cart now.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Screening Books for a Contest

I just finished screening 100 books for the Kent contest. Five go on to the final round. It's heartbreakingly simple to do . . . Heartbreaking because so there are just so many poets, so many pages, so many hearts spilled out on the page. Simple in the way that cream rises to the top. A good book announces itself. It has something to say and to say beautifully.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Reading for the contest . . .

About half way thru reading for the contest, and I have one book I am so in love with. I can't imagine I will find a better one. It's so exciting.

And I have a second place choice, too. I am so relieved to find these two books I love.

I am supposed to choose 4.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Contest Reading

Reading for a contest. 5 books down, 95 to go . . .

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Reading at the Literary Cafe

Well, I won't watch this video of me reading. I can't stand to watch myself. But here it is.

And it was such a fun event. Two of the best things about it: Amber came with her friend and husband from Dayton. (Thanks Amber!!) And Suzanne was home for it as well.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Being a writer in your later years

My father was a talented pianist. But as he aged, he lost his ability to play. Or so he said. His friends didn't believe him, and sometimes at parties they would ask him to perform. I remember the late time he obliged. I was in grade school, and on this particular night, he played one piece after another with such zeal. I liked to watch his hands race over the keys, so I went to stand by his side. It was then that I noticed a sprinkling of blood on the keys. A small sprinkling, to be sure. But I announced it to the room. My father stopped suddenly, wiped the keys with his handkerchief, and sat down.

He was on several kinds of medicine then. I don't know which or what diagnosis he had a that time, but I do know he always said his skin was thin. And he would often mix his meds and take more than was recommended.

After he sat down, the room felt so quiet. A bleak mood hung over the room. That was when Eleanor Ross Taylor, a poet and friend of my parents, turned and said to me in her quiet voice: being a writer is one of the kindest arts. You can do it well even as you age. In fact it can become your friend in your later years.

I've always taken comfort in her words.


Michael Mahon and Nin Andrews
Thursday May 14, 2009 at 9:30pm
Literary Cafe
1031 Literary Rd
Cleveland, OH 44113-4442
(216) 861-3922

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Just say no to pork . . .

Friends keep telling me that pork is safe, that you can't get swine flu from eating pork. I don't know. I think you can get a lot of things from eating pork, and evidently, so does the WHO. And even if you don't get sick, you might just want to do a little reading on how pigs are raised and marketed these days.

And then there's this quote from Grist . . .

"Don’t associate U.S. pork with the swine flu outbreak—you can’t catch it through pork. Plus, no pigs on U.S. CAFOs are infected with it.

That’s message the industry and the USDA are straining to get across, anyway. Except ... you can catch swine flu from pork, according to the World Health Organization. "

Yep, you can catch it from pigs, and no one knows if US pigs are infected. They aren't exactly rushing to find out either.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Birthday Week

It was my birthday week! It's exciting to be so old. I think so. How can it not be? I guess the philosopher in me is talking. But I do think about the miracle of being alive at all, much less in this way, in this peculiar body and mind and spirit and time and state and country and, and, and

with these great friends and folks . . .

I do feel dangerously lucky. Some part of me is afraid to celebrate for fear I will be punished for feeling this happy.

After so many catch-up phone calls and notes and so forth, I have a small tower of new books to read. Among them this funny book, Overqualified, by Joey Comeau, which is collection of hysterical letters addressed to different corporations, requesting a job.

And I should now be the envy of all the prose poets out there . . . because Jim found a hardback copy of The Prose Poem, an International Anthology, in great condition! Yep. The Michael Benedikt anthology from 1976! Amazing. (It's the best anthology of prose poems out there, but good luck finding a copy that is in readable shape. I searched everywhere for this book.)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Touring the Coal Power Plant

I’d like to say I learned something on the tour of the coal power plant, but we had to wear goggles, hard hats, and insert these orange earplugs, so I could barely hear at all. (We also had to wear natural fibers. I guess they didn't want us wearing anything too flammable.)

Our tour leader was so enthusiastic. He kept pointing to things and opening and closing his mouth. We all nodded and stared at him vaguely. This must be what it's like to be deaf, I thought. The building was humming and giving off a smell like hard-boiled eggs.

When I leaned in close, I could hear an occasional sentence from the tour guide . . .

This is where the pulverized coal is blown into the furnace.
This is the fireball. It's 2000 degrees.
(It hurt my eyes to look at it. The sun's surface is 6000 degrees.)
This is where the steam is returned to water.
This is where the plant is monitored.
(It was this room with both modern computer equipment and the old technology: levers and dials and I'm not at all sure what else.)
This is the roof, and from here, you can see the coal heap. You can see the water we used for cooling. It’s clean enough to swim in.
Would you swim in it? I asked.
No, he laughed.
Do you worry about the ash? I asked. (On the rooftop, there was a dusting of ash blowing around.) But I don’t think he heard my question.

Inside the coal power plant

Inside the Crawford plant in Chicago, after we made it through security (which took ages), they gave us lunch ( pizza and soda), a lecture, and a tour. The plant-folks seemed a little anxious. UCS isn’t exactly Greenpeace, but it is an environmental organization. And the Crawford Plant, owned by Midwest Generation, has been in the news in the past few years for spewing deadly toxins into the Chicago air and increasing the risk and incidence rate of asthma. Because the Crawford plant is old (built in 1924), it has been exempt from the more rigorous clean air regulations. The EPA has cited the plant for violations in the recent past—for pumping out emissions with more soot and particulates than the law allows.

The Crawford speakers gave us a tidy power point presentation. (I think it was tidy, but I almost fell asleep when they got into the history and some of the more extensive scientific explanations of its operations.) They explained that they were working hard to clean up their operation. They talked about their control technologies for reducing toxic emissions such as mercury, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide, claiming that their emissions of the latter are below state and federal limits. They also made of point of saying they import their coal Wyoming because it’s lower sulfur coal. Only the cleanest coal, I guess. No Midwest coal there.

It sounded good, but I have trouble thinking of clean and coal in the same sentence. And I’m terrible at statistics. Statistics do something to my brain. I never know what they mean. And my brain just goes around and around the numbers. For example, one man there mentioned they had a 30% reduction of nitrogen oxide emissions. Compared to what? What is the starting point? What would a new coal plant emit? And how much nitrogen oxide do we really want to inhale? Or mercury? Or sulfur dioxide?

All the same, I was really impressed with how nice the men there were. I mean, they seemed to love their job at the plant. And they loved chatting it up.

Just a spoonful of sugar makes the toxins sound fine.

At the end of the presentation they had a display of their community projects and prizes. One was a green award. When someone asked why they got an environmental award, they said they thought it was for planting trees in a park.

98% of What Folks Think of You

Last weekend we visited Chicago.

Actually, we visited the Crawford coal-fired power plant with other members of the Union of Concerned Scientists. It was weird. I mean, it was like like taking a school field trip to the dark side.

We rode in on a black, unmarked bus, passing the nice urban sights and traveling into a less affluent neighborhood to the site of the power plant.

Stop 1: Security.
They photo-copied our driver’s licenses and waved their magic wands over each of us as we stood in front of a large poster of a security guard in uniform with these words written across the top:

98% of what people think of you is based on your appearance.


What accounts for the other 2%?

Your smell?
Your voice . . . or accent?
Your handshake?

(I was reminded of my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Dorrier, who used to tell us she could tell everything about a child from her handshake. All these years, I’ve been misinformed. I’ve been worried about something that accounts for less that 2% of the impression I might make on a person.)

I kept thinking about that poster after we left. How the presentation was very nice. Everything "looked" okay. Well, maybe not exactly okay, if you take into account the ash floating around. The scent of sulfur. The pile of coal outside. But still, the folks there seemed so genuine and nice, even if coal is anything but nice, no matter how clean you try to make it sound/look/smell, etc..

Hot Sauce

Last weekend we visited Chicago. For every city I visit, I tell myself I have to discover a new love.

This trip it was hot sauce. Yep. Hot sauce on eggs.

Do you want some hot sauce with those eggs?

Now that you mention it, I think I do.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Senator Sherrod Brown

April 20, 2009
By Sen. Sherrod Brown
Special to Roll Call

Everyone knows that Ohio and the industrial Midwest have been hit especially hard by this recession. What many people don't understand is that climate change legislation can make our region and our country stronger.

Across my state, manufacturing towns such as Toledo, Cleveland, Dayton, Youngstown and Columbus are leading the way in advanced manufacturing for new clean energy technologies. Our state and our nation need this boost in manufacturing, because in important ways, manufacturing jobs anchor our nation's middle class.

Manufacturing jobs can provide wages and benefits that enable homeownership and economic security for working families. Manufacturing jobs tend to have a strong multiplier effect on economic activity that bolsters our nation's gross domestic product, and they are critical to supporting vital public services and schools in communities across the nation.

But clean energy policy is far more than a means of bolstering U.S. manufacturing. If we care about the world in which we live and the generations that will follow us, then we must no longer dismiss the lethal risks global warming poses to our planet. We must craft an aggressive strategy to combat global warming, and we must do it now.

And there's yet another reason for focusing on clean energy policy. The United States cannot safely remain dependent on foreign sources of energy. We cannot break free of this dependence without getting serious about producing our own energy sources and increasing the efficiency with which we use the energy available to us.

Whether it's reducing carbon emissions to combat global warming, increasing energy efficiency or securing U.S.-based energy sources, all of these goals underscore the importance of clean energy manufacturing. It's important to note that such manufacturing is not a narrow sector defined by finished products such as wind turbines and hybrid engines. Current industries - such as steel, glass, aluminum and cement - are necessary for the construction of our nation's renewable energy future. A modern wind turbine, for example, requires the same amount of steel as 250 midsize sedans.

We must not simply trade our dependence on foreign oil for a dependence on foreign manufactured renewable energy sources. The right, clean-energy-oriented climate change policy will not only spur demand for new energy sources, but it will also put in place the foundation for these technologies to be developed and built here in America.

And what is true for manufacturing is true for all industries. Climate change legislation must ensure that the steps we take to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels does not simply shift the smoke from our stacks to those in the developing world.

Some people would say that our current economic crisis compels us to delay action on comprehensive climate change legislation. I disagree. Inaction is not an option. Capping carbon emissions can create new jobs in a clean energy economy. Without action, we face dangerous consequences. We risk the health of our citizens, the viability of our coastal areas, the productivity of our nation's farms, forests and fisheries, and the long-term economic and national security of our country.

We can enact climate change legislation that does not needlessly pick winners and losers among regions, workers or industries. Done right, climate change legislation will improve our nation's competitiveness by creating new jobs and developing new technologies. We must confront the twin challenges of our economy and environment with a robust and thoughtful response. And we must recognize that climate change legislation is an opportunity to rebuild our nation's manufacturing base.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) serves on the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committees and chairs the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Policy. Brown is the author of the Green Energy Production Act and the Regional Economic Recovery Coordination Act.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Winning Font

The other day a friend was telling me how much he hates judging poetry contests. He said the last time he chose a winner, he wasn't sure about the book. But he really liked the font.

I keep thinking about that font. It sounded a little like he was saying--the girl was really dumb, but he really liked the way she walked, giggled, talked . . .

At the same time, I know that when you read a lot of books, the appearance matters. I'm not sure I've ever thought much about the fonts. I don't even know which fonts I like or don't like.

I wonder if there is winning font.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Going crazy

I am so far behind. I have this pile of envelopes and emails and details to get through, and no matter how far I get, I have so much more to do. This--the aftermath of travels I guess.

I just got an email from a review asking me for a bio note and so forth, but I thought they rejected my work. I don't exactly want to write and say, what poem? Are you sure you have the right poet?

It reminds me of the time a review took a poem with a title I didn't remember ever writing. And the review was one I didn't remember ever sending to . . .

No, I am not going crazy, I assure myself.

Monday, April 13, 2009


I've been traveling too much lately. I've traveled so much, I'm starting to know which airport/airline treats you the best, worst, and other odd facts.

How the Akron Airport will change your reservation at the last minute to an earlier flight at no extra charge. They've even re-routed me just because they thought it might make for a smoother connection. Of course the downside is that there's nothing to do in if you happen to be stuck there. No place to buy a good book or cup of coffee, and there's Fox News on loud every place you sit. So I usually choose Pittsburgh over Akron, but Cleveland is the last choice every time.

Then there's the airlines. Like American that charges extra for baggage and tries to discourage you from carrying your luggage. They have this little metal cage to slide your bag into in order to determine if it fits in the overhead compartment. The ticket guy slid my bag into the metal cage last week, and then he couldn't get it out again.

I'm always interested in the airplane food, as well. US Air serves microwaved burgers if you're flying across the country at lunch. And a little salad that you don't want to unwrap because, for some reason, it has this amazing odor of fungicide.

I'm never sure which is worse--canned food or microwaved food. I remember eating canned hotdogs once when I was a child. ( Did I only imagine that? ) It seemed like everything came in a can, and it made you wonder how long ago it had died. A friend told me they used to serve canned burgers too. I'm not sure about that one. She said they were grey.

Monday, April 6, 2009


I'm flying to Texas tomorrow to see my friends, Karen Schubert and Salvatore Attardo, and to give a reading at Texas A&M University-Commerce. I don't know much about Texas, but it's snowing here, and I'm really looking forward to some warm, dry air and sunshine!

Friday, April 3, 2009

yo ma shower heads is droplets trumpets

This is the funniest blog. I don't know who it belongs to . . . but scroll down to the heading--

yo ma shower heads is droplets trumpets

I've taken to watching this whenever I feel blue.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Review of the Reading

Sometimes people say things that are way too nice, as in the review below. But I do love to read it all the same. Sally Ashton is the best! And we had so much fun at the KGB. If you go to the BAP blog, you can see a video of us reading.

Nin Andrews & Sally Ashton: Last Night at KGB [by Megin Jimenez]

A Fine Night for the Living

The podium of the KGB Bar was graced with the presence of two audacious poetesses last night, Sally Ashton and Nin Andrews. Happy synergies between poets marked the evening in the form of prose poem play, persona pieces, and bursts of laughter from the crowd. Both are often funny, yes, but always with some bite.

Some highlights:
Ashton took us on her search for the real Sally Ashton, asking what’s in a name in so many ways. She introduced us to the myriad doppleganger Sally Ashtons of the internet, and pondered what a person is, exactly, on the Web. Technology surfaced subtly throughout her work, text messages following rapture, Confederate hoopskirts rubbing up against gas stations.

Having risked a student riot by refusing to deliver an orgasm (poem) at a recent reading, Andrews played it, er, safe this time, regaling us with the climactic Yes (in the voice of a kind of orgasm maven), as well as detailing the troubles of having a talking pussy, in a decidedly female tribute to the surreal and sexy boldness of Henri Michaux. With poems from Dear Professor, Do You Live in a Vacuum she gleefully took us to the absurd and metaphysical place the language of physics seems to long for.

We were also treated to a first taste of books-to-be. A lyric "I" circles and returns to the enigma of a haunting donkey’s voice in Ashton’s prose poem series, Her Name is Juanita (forthcoming from Kore Press). Andrews’ voice blossomed with a Southern twang in poems recalling the power of superstition and Catholic school health class, soon to appear in the collection Southern Comfort (from CavanKerry Press).

There was an eerie micro moment when Andrews described her father’s belief that every twenty minutes, we trade places with the dead (those moments when a group goes suddenly silent). The trade is necessary so the dead will be familiar when we meet them. The giggling crowd had just gone suddenly silent a moment earlier... If we did indeed trade places with the dead, it made the return to the living all the better, with a drink to follow in the red room and something warm and close in the air, made of words.

-- Megin Jimenez

Friday, March 27, 2009


at the KGB Bar in NYC
with Sally Ashton
Monday, 7:30

Come see us if you are in town!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Synergos by Roberto Manzano

translated by Steven Reese--

A new and amazing bilingual book, just out from Etruscan Press.
Here's a sample poem.


He ascends like air, higher and higher,
and from far off sees ground divided, the strife
within a sip of grace, one part our life
and the other a fleet and fierce desire.

What happens? You know what happens solely
in your ascent? You don't know, and if you do,
you know less well by far that those birds who go
beating small wings to fly across the pole.

To watch the earth go its way, but soulful
like a showing of innermost power,
of a living more deep and multiple.

One must rise and rise, and rise, and see there
in the highest of mirrors the wide well
where it thickens, dreamless, all that we are.

p. 107

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I've been thinking about depression lately--maybe because Sylvia Plath's son committed suicide Monday. He was a marine biologist. Not a poet. Somehow suicide and art are so commonly linked, I wonder if he was artistic as well. So many of my artistic friends talk openly of their depressions. My less arty friends do not.

Some of my "not-arty" friends see depression as a weakness. Not a medical condition but rather a form of self-indulgence. Something you could cure by will alone.

My mom never really understood sadness. She thought it was something that should be easily fixed, and sad people angered her. She had a whole list of ifs she would say,

and each if was supposed to make you feel better when/if you were sad:

If you were in prison, you would envy everyone outside, everyone free, and so imagine you are in prison and then imagine what you would wish you were doing if . . .

If you were unable to see, you would want so much to see . . . Look at the world with the eyes of one who has never seen it . . .

If you were unable to hear, . . .

if you were unable to walk or run, you would be wishing you could race across the green grass or walk out into the sun . . .

If you were unable to eat, you would imagine all the cakes and cookies, all the potatoes and peas and meats, all the flavors you might wish to eat . . .

If you were told you only had 3 days to live, you would wish you had lived when you lived . . .

I liked all these games. I especially liked living my last three days.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Power of Suggestion

1. My friend was telling me a story the other night that made me wonder--it was about a woman who was terrified of flying. She had repeated nightmares of planes going down, herself beating on the escape door, the wind gushing in and sucking her out to the open sky. Finally, when she was in her mid-forties or so, she had to take a business trip. And sure enough, the plane ran into trouble and managed an emergency landing . . .

No, the exit doors were not opened, but the experience came close to replicating the dream. The woman said she should never have given voice to her fears, her nightmares . . .

2. My devout Catholic friend tells me you must never be too happy. Never too sad. And never-ever give voice to your happiness. Or to your sorrows. Because soon, God will punish you for being too happy. And you know what He did to Job.

(Sometimes she says this differently. She says--soon the other foot will fall. Just as night follows day and . . . Now that is a little easier to hear.)

It's an odd thing, but for no religious reasons, I share her fears. I am always afraid to say life is good, or to brag of good news. And I feel ungrateful saying life is bad.

But do I think as she does? That words are somehow like curses?

3. I have another friend who was always afraid her husband would leave her for some young sweet thing. For years she told me this fear. For years I saw her as so happy happy in her marriage. And her husband, too. Yeah, well, you know how this goes. We all do.

But what I wonder is, was it the power of suggestion? Or did she know something. If a man is repeatedly told, one day he will leave, does it become a prophecy?


to Suzanne! She has been accepted to a number of graduate schools to study public policy

including Georgetown, George Washington, Tufts, Columbia, and John Hopkins . . .

And the winner is . . .

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Contented Writer?

I was thinking about a distant cousin of mine who lives in Napa. This woman lives in the middle of a grape vineyard--a huge vineyard in the midst of hundreds of acres of grapes. But what impressed me wasn't just the scenery. It was, rather, that she seemed content. It occurred to me that I haven't met that many contented people, and I don't think I have ever met a contented writer. I keep wondering if it's even possible.

After all, I am always unhappy if I'm not writing. And when I am writing, I am not finished yet, and so I am wanting to write more and finish. But I never ever want to be finished because then I am not writing.

And there is always some doubt. What if I am only imagining that what I'm writing is really worth writing? And who can say what is worth, for what it's worth, and if worth is worth anything?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Today I went slogging through the muddy paths in the woods. It's easy to avoid the mud, but there's something nice about the paths no one else walks on. What a day. So many birds singing, so many choruses all at once. But looking at my shoes afterwards, I was reminded of one of the more embarrassing moments of my childhood . . .

I was in fifth grade, and I had been sent home a few times already for being "out of code"--wearing the wrong clothes. Once I wore shorts under my skirt. Another time I was wearing what my Mom called a shift. It was some kind of dress that didn't shift far enough down my legs. So the day I came in wearing red tennis shoes, the teacher called and asked my mom to bring my brown school shoes. My mom was indignant, but she brought those shoes, all wrapped up in a brown bag. She didn't warn the teacher that I'd worn them to the barn that morning, and they were covered with cow manure.

My mom just smiled when I slid them on and walked into the classroom, leaving a little trail of cow turds as I walked.


I love spring. One of the things I love most--the peepers. They were singing away in the afternoon yesterday--there in the muddy leafy "ponds" that will soon be mosquito (frog food) breeding grounds before they dry out. Yesterday I went from peeper pond to peeper pond, watching as they slipped into the water, the circles spreading above them in the black water. But there was this one giant brown frog in one pond (not peeper-like at all) that was swimming around and looping upside down--exposing his pale belly flesh.

I kept wondering about him. He looked as if he hadn't thawed out all the way yet. And he didn't peep, he glugged and garbled, his legs not able to propel him down but rather moving him in slow, helpless circles. Maybe there was something wrong with his liver, my friend suggested when I told her about the peeper-life.

Spring Peepers make glucose in their livers. The glucose is like an anti-freeze that is circulated through their vital organs in winter. The other (less vital?) parts of the body do freeze.

I'd never really thought about a frog having liver failure.

Monday, March 16, 2009

From Berkeley to Poland

Back from vacation, from Berkeley to the real world . . .

(There is something comforting about reality after all, and something nice about everything surreal.)

And which would I pick? Poland, Ohio or Berkeley? folks ask with a smirk. (Californians have a way of gloating, don't they?)

Let me ask you . . .

Which will it be? Fried chicken or sauteed parsnips? Late spring or sun/wind-scorched days? Pantsuits or skin tight jeans? SADS or skin cancer? Mansions for $300,000? (Or in Youngstown for $100,000) Or 3 bedroom homes for 1.5 million bucks and up? A life that ebbs and flows or one that rushes and surges--the people all caught up in the rush, racing past like salmon going upstream. Oh I wonder. . .

Do you prefer to slow dance? Or spin like a dervish? Do you think of your life as the color and song of dusk? Or do you live in neon 24-7?

Do you live with a chip on your shoulder? A sense of apology, as if something isn't ever quite right? (It never is, is it?)

Or do you think everyone wishes they were you--or at least living where you are? Yes, it's so. If only everyone were there, if only, . . . then they might know how bright life really is, like a flash bulb . . .

Don't blink. Keep your eyes open. You might miss it.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Barn Owl Review

I love the new Barn Owl Review. Even just flipping through it--you can't help but get sucked into it.

I have a habit of reading the last and first parts of poems. I'll just give you a last and first to show what a mean. The last is first -- and is from Greg Rappleye's poem, "Carnivorous,"

A fight ensued, my wife asked me to leave
and within a year became my ex-,
though I kept the grill
and a recipe for chipotle rub,
and could give them to you, if your marriage
is troubled, if you truly hunger, if you still wish.

An opening line from Laura Madeline Wiseman's "My Imaginary Cock,"

My imaginary cock and I pair up for a scavenger hunt.

Spring Break!

Going to see my son this week! Hurray!

Denise Duhamel!!!

I love this interview with Denise!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Cirque de Soleil

We went to see Cirque de Soleil last night. It was amazing. And the Chevy Center in Youngstown is a perfect place for it--not a bad seat in the house. At the same time I was slightly disappointed because we'd seen them in Pittsburgh where the show was far more of a show. I felt like we got the Youngstown version, the abridged edition. The first half was over in a blink. The different acts were cut down to a minimum, fewer people jumping or twirling or balancing this way and that, more solo acts and fewer duets and so on, and there wasn't that overwhelming sense of entering another world. I wasn't sucked into the theme, the story, the drama . . . Instead I was just amazed by every single performer.

I suppose in some ways it was nice to be able to focus on one or two flying men or women at a time.

And I'd go again tonight if we had tickets. I'm a sucker for acrobatics and circus tricks and magic. As a poet, I always feel so limited. All I have is words to play with, to dance and twist and turn and try to balance in the air . . . And somehow they just don't do it all.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


The new Sentence has arrived. I love Sentence! I love the title--I often think of sentences as an issue when I write. I tend to use too many dependent clauses. I think in terms of if and because and suppose. And then I leave out the second half of the if. Who cares about the then?

I love to let phrases dangle out in space, alone and unmodified. Those fragments that were once X-ed off my pages now claim their own space triumphantly. Go ahead, say I'm not a sentence! they say.

Maybe it's the philosophy and religious studies student in me. How I lack conclusions to all my thoughts. I do wonder, though . . .

Is the world a declarative sentence? A simple is?
Or a compound sentence, both this and that.
Or is it either/or, but not neither/ nor?
Or is there a because, or only a maybe? A perhaps?
Is it hanging out there like an illusion, a ghost, a cloud, a passing thought?

Is there a beginning, and if so, then is there an end? If there is a big bang, is there also an infinite silence?

I like the idea of reincarnation, but each day I experience entropy. Usually it happens at 4:00 in the afternoon when my mind blanks out, and I wonder if I will ever have an interesting thought again. It's too early for dinner, too late for hope and ideals, and it is neither afternoon nor evening, neither a dark time nor a light time . . .

That time when everyone wonders if they will ever make love again. And I know they won't.

I have sentenced them all to this fate . . .

Monday, March 2, 2009


I always love it when I get a poem accepted that I don't remember writing. Hmmm.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The poet and the businessmen are dismissed . . .

I had jury duty yesterday. I expected it to be a minor crime at most, a one to three day event. Instead it was a violent murder-rape-kidnapping-burglary case. I was dismissed because I will be out of the county when the case opens. (As the judge said with a smile, the poet and the businessmen are dismissed.) Three people raised their hands to say they had health reasons which prevented them from being able to serve. One man said he was deaf and proceeded to answer all the questions the judge asked him. A woman said she had a seizure disorder, that in fact she had a doctor's appointment in twenty minutes and was out of her meds. Another man said he couldn't see, but he left with his car keys in hand.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Blue Cheese Dressing

Oh, man, I have this stomach virus that keeps hanging on. I hate this. I wonder if it started with what my parents called "public food." I went to a fund raiser last week and ate some public food. Whenever I eat something from a buffet, I think of my parents' comments. And of the time when I was a kid, and we ate at such an event. And one sister accused another of blowing boogers into the blue cheese salad dressing. We were in a crowd, and once the accusation was made, we all had to start yelling about it--all 6 kids. I don't think blue cheese dressing has ever been appealing since that day . . .

Ah well. I was going to write about how I had a gig at Kent today but alas, I can't make and, and instead I am writing about blue cheese dressing.

There are aspects of a large family one never recovers from.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I have a friend who claims to be psychic. Once when I asked her to say what she saw when she looked at me, she said my days are divided between the days I eat chocolate, and the days I don't. It wasn't true before she said it.

A man asked a woman in Starbucks if chocolate was really better than sex. It depends on the chocolate, she answered.

A friend of mine told me you know when chocolate is your real lover when you start hiding it. Esp. the evidence afterwards.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Winter Blues

I'm not sure whether it was AWP or just the recent snow storm, but I've got a case of the winter blues. Just the way of things I guess. And I don't mean to blame AWP because I did love seeing friends there. It's one of the few places I see some of my favorite folks. And there were the usual highlights: many wonderful readings and panels and books to buy and so on. All the good things, and then a few moments that were hard to deal with. Like the last few conversations I had at AWP. One in particular was with a man I didn't know who went to one of the nonresidency MFA programs and hasn't published since then. He's angry and he and his friends asked me a lot of angry questions such as. . .
Did I think that MFA programs would just let a student in (even if he lacks all talent or future potential) because he could pay? How many of these 7000 participants do you guess are MFA students or grads? Do you think talent is rewarded? Or is it all about who you know and what you can do for the powers that be? Do you think if a guy like me (who might have no talent) owned a press that he could get published? Do you think that's why there are so many presses? What if he ran a prestigious poetry series? Do you think there is such a thing as conflict of interest in the poetry world?

Bitterness is hard to listen to, and I will stop now. If only the conversation had stopped there.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Ugly houses, ugly poems

I have a habit of staring at houses. I love it when they're lit up at night, and I can see into them from the street--the lit world of another life. I know you're not supposed to look into other homes and worlds, but if they leave the lights on, how can I not look? But there's this one house on the circle near my home that is really sweet. It has a huge porch and many windows, a back yard full of trees and deer and a creek. The house has been for sale forever. The owners keep fixing it up and fixing it up. Everything about this house looks ideal, at least to me. But what do I know? Yeah, I know--houses everywhere are for sale, but the hideous one that looks like a tomb that is a block away--it sold in a matter of weeks. As did the one that is the color of puke. And the double wide . . .

I sometimes think of my poems when I pass by these houses. I sometimes think my crappy ones get swept up right away. And the ones I like, I keep fixing up and fixing up. I can't ever fix them up enough of course. That's my curse.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


It's my mom's birthday today. She's 92, and going strong. People always ask me, so how old was she when she had you? Old, my mom would have answered. She liked to tell me that having a child after 40 is more risky (genetically speaking) than having a child with your first cousin. And she'd add that that's why my uncle is autistic -- most likely. Then she'd say that you'd never breed an old cow.

My mom loved to compare folks to cows. And what she said is true. Recently the health news has been reporting these facts as if they are new. Old parents, yes even old dads (perhaps esp. in the case of autism, though I'm not sure the verdict is in on that), increase the risks for various issues for kids. It's not a popular fact these days when waiting to have children is the norm. Not something I like to think about much, considering what it might mean in my case, not that I can do much about it. And having a mom whose 92, well, that's genetics too I guess. 92. And that is old. I'm not sure I will go that long, not if I have a choice about it. And I probably do. Maybe I'll take up smoking in my 80s.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

AWP and the Dead

I always feel strange after AWP. As if I have to remember who I am. And then friends ask me what I did and what it was like, and I can't remember. Except I was sick at the end. That always happens at AWP. At a certain point, the urge to hurl is overwhelming.

I know I should remember something else about the conference--the readings, the panels, the book fair, the famous writers . . . . But this year I kept seeing this woman who looked like my dead cousin. She was blonde and tall and lightly freckled, and she seemed to be smoking on the other side of the twirly doors every time I was about to go through. I would stop and remember, she's dead.

It reminded me of the year I first knew someone who died. Her name was Mary. I was in first grade. She was like a grandma to me, and I kept seeing her around town after she'd passed. My mom hadn't told me she'd died, and by the time I realized she was gone, I couldn't remember what she looked like.

My dad told me you never really remember the faces of those you love, as if to comfort me. I found a photograph of Mary years later, and it looked nothing like I expected it. Sometimes I still stare at it. That's Mary? Maybe that's why I started memorizing the faces of loved ones. I still do that. I do it every day, carefully noticing scars and freckles, a change in hair color, a new strand of gray. My dad was an artist and he loved to have his kids draw, and I often pretend I am drawing people when I look at them, tracing their features in pencil. My mom always said it's rude to stare, and I do stare. How can you not want to stare? But If I look too hard at one part of someone's face, they will inadvertently reach up and touch it. Then I know I need to look away.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Books I Love

People often ask, what books do you love most? And why? I don't have a clue how to answer that. Some books I love because I feel as if they're so stunning. Some I love the story, some the language, some the paragraphs, some the smell, some the size, some the humor, some the mood, some the magic . . . Yes, the magic . . .

Like Brockmeier--I love him for his many, many beautiful paragraphs . . . Like this one from The Truth about Celia:

Here is Celia, running like a rabbit through the sunlight, on a day so perfectly pitched between winter and spring that she can feel streamers of warm air in the wind. The grass looks willowy and tender, and she very much wants to take off her shoes and flatten it beneath her feet, but her mom told her that if she went pounding around barefoot outside she might catch something. She is afraid of catching something. When she was six, she caught the flu, and when she was five she caught the chicken pox. She stops by the pond and looks into the water, creased by the breeze. There is a cluster of minnows swimming just beneath the surface, and when she tries to touch one they scatter away in a spray of silver Vs . . .

Okay that's not even the best one, but it's a first one I remember reading, the opening to the book . . .

One of my favorite Brockmeier's is the story, "A Fable of White Paper Spilling from the Pockets," which begins: Once there was a man who happened to buy God's overcoat. He was rummaging through a thrift store when he found it hanging on a rack by the fire exit . . .

Another good book, and a huge contrast, is the graphic novel, Fun Home, which is one of a kind--totally new to me, at least. I don't think I've read a book so honest. I totally believe every second of this book by Alison Bechdel. And I am suddenly aware that I've never really believed any of the memoirs or autobiographies or so-called confessional poems before this one. This one feels so totally real. Maybe because some of the story is mine, because I see my dad in this dad, but only a tiny bit of my dad. Maybe because it's a graphic novel. Maybe because it is.

But there is no singular paragraph or moment in the book . . . . And I don't mean that as a negative. Just that I usually have a page in a book that I remember better than any other page--a particular memory or thought or image or . . .

And with many books, all I need is to love one particular page, and the book is a winner.

Then there is Chris Barzak who dares to try to do everything I would like to do but can't ever try at the same time. In his new book,The Love We Share Without Knowing,--there's the personal tale, magical realism, the bigger than life issues--okay--life and death issues, the love story or the lack of love-- story, and the twisted myths and fairy tales of and for a strangely twisted world . . . and, and . . . . There is one character living on another's life stories. (Something I am so guilty of--always have been, feeding on other's tales as if they were a way to survive . . . though in the story it becomes dangerous to do so ). And his stories are connected like pieces of stained glass window, all the light shining together to make it a short story collection that is a novel . . .

Then there is this book, No Other Life, by Gary Young, which I bought ages ago and thought was boring. I picked it up a few months ago, and it's become one of those books I keep in arms reach. I don't know what he does and don't want to know or say right now because if I analyze something when the magic is happening, it stops the magic every time.

And then there's Galleano's --The Book of Embracess, a best- best friend, and Rick Bursky's The Soup of Something Missing, and of course, Henri Michaux's everything. And there's always the out of print The Prose Poem, an International Anthology, which is in so many pieces, floating around my office, and if I could ever find one, new and in working order, I'd be in heaven . . .

And then there's Michael Ondaatje's Elimination Dance. It's incredibly funny.

And of course, there are the children's books I totally love . . . Esp. books long out of print with pretty pictures like my copy of The Arabian Nights with illustrations by Maxfield Parish . . .

So many books, too many I guess, and yet never enough.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Male Logic

I just got off the phone with a friend who was bitching about women. I always find it odd when you have a male friend who bitches. Esp. who bitches about women, as if they are aliens. And then he bitches to a woman because after all, can men bitch to men? I mean, is that done? Women, he said, are just so "f-ing sensitive." I kept working and not really listening, though I was beginning to feel a bit sensitive myself. Sigh. I was very tempted to read him this little piece I wrote a while ago.

Male Logic

(an excerpt from a poem in Sleeping with Houdini.)

One day, I gave up and said, “Listen, Honey, I’m sorry. Maybe I’m just having a bad day. But I think we’re finished. I don’t know what else to say.”

That’s when you handed me that tape entitled, Reason Your Way To Bliss. I tried to listen to it. Honestly, I did. But I stopped, every time I got to that point where the speaker (a man, of course—only a man would equate reason and bliss) was saying: If you take a rock and examine it beneath a microscope, it is no different from a human beneath a microscope. Everything on earth is just atoms and molecules. But I ask you, can a rock have a bad day? Can a bad day be seen beneath a microscope? Of course it can’t. If a rock is smart enough not to have a bad day, then how could you be having a bad day? In truth bad days do not exist. Humans and rocks do. I had to turn off the tape. This, Love, is male logic at its best.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Ask Not What Big Brother Can Do for You

A friend of mine told me her father came up with the line: Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country. I always thought it was a great line until Jimmy commented that it sounds sort of totalitarian. Like some kind of pledge of allegiance to Big Brother.

Then I was reading an article in the New Yorker. The gist of it was--we are all waiting for Obama to save us. But things are so bad, we're going to have to save Obama.

As a writer and not a politician or an evangelist, I don't think I ever imagine I can save anyone. I don't think saving is part of a poet's mission. (Of course I've read poets who disagree with that.) No, I think of myself as one of the fiddlers on the deck of the Titanic. Someone who watches the icebergs sail towards her.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Best and Worst Presidents

Everyone is saying GW Bush will go down in history as the worst president ever. Is he worse than Nixon?

I hate to admit it, but as creepy as he was, I sort of liked Nixon, but mostly as a kind of character in a novel (too bad he was real), a study in paranoia. Maybe it's because I met him once, ever so briefly. He was so so weird, waving his fingers in the air. Hard to say I like someone who bombed the hell out of Vietnam without any sense of remorse, who was always sneaking around, doing creepy things. But his wife seemed decent enough. I mean she supported the ERA, was pro-choice (with reservations), traveled the nation and the world, went into the combat zone is South Vietnam, and seemed to have a social conscience. I don't think she knew about Watergate, and she appeared to enjoy Nixon (she always looked miserable with him, esp in the end) about as much as the rest of us did.

Laura Bush, I read recently, is so boring that several major publishers are not interested in bidding on her biography. GW said about her: She's the perfect wife. She does not go into the spotlight.

I think Andrew Jackson is hard to beat as a candidate for the worst president. It seems that Jackson, Nixon, Bush and Cheney all thought they were above the law.

Eleanor Roosevelt might have been the best president ever. She was the heart, the legs, the conscience, and probably most of the brains of FDR. Funny to think he initially wanted her to stay out of the public eye and serve tea to guests of the White House. Maybe join the stitch and chat with the other women of her day . . .

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Another History Post

1. Camp David is named after Eisenhower's grandson.

2. President Johnson tried to broker a peace accord with Vietnam in his last year of presidency, but failed. Nixon had already asked South Vietnam to wait until he was elected, suggesting that he would bring them a better deal.

3. Johnson loved skinny dipping and Fresca, and was said to have announced his ideas for the The Great Society to his advisers while he was nude in the swimming pool.

4. Nixon had so many enemies, he had to keep a list of their names.

5. Carter turned the AC off in the White House during summer days, and it was said to have been broiling hot. Carter, the good southern boy and eco-evangelist, didn't seem to mind the heat.

6. Nancy Reagan served as Reagan's protector and had Donald Regan fired.

7. George Bush Sr. was so popular after Desert Storm, and so unpopular after he gave up on his promise--no new taxes. I think about that, and I worry about Obama. After all, so many president's approval ratings have depended on the economy doing well , and yet, economic woes are often inherited from prior administrations.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Another interesting fact:

Franklin Roosevelt's famous inaugural line, 'The only thing we have to fear is fear itself," was composed by Louis Howe.

(Okay, I know it's not surprising that FDR didn't write his famous lines. But I always wonder how it would change our perceptions if we had credits at the end of presidential speeches. Imagine: this speech was written by X, edited by Y, brought to you by . . . )

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Few More Facts

1. Grant was one of the early presidents to take on the issue of terrorism --he did a great job vs. the KKK. It was also said of Grant, oddly, that he cringed at the sight of blood.

2. Buffalo Bill killed over 4,000 bison in 8 months.

3. Many of the most famous rich American families made their fortunes during the Civil War: Rockefeller, Armour (meat), Carnegie,
Morgan . . .
"A man may be a patriot without risking his life," Mellon wrote to his son. "There are plenty of other lives less valuable."

4. Coolidge rode a mechanical horse during his time in the White House--it was his way of staying in shape.

5. FDR married his cousin. Yep, Eleanor kept her last name. Thomas Jefferson also married his cousin.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Odd facts

Just a few random, odd historical facts . . .

1. George Washington ran a distillery at Mount Vernon and produced thousands of gallons of whiskey . . . Rye and corn whiskey.

2. Thomas Jefferson was accused of having an affair with his slave, Sally Hemings, who was actually his wife's half-sister.

3. The Monroe Doctrine was not written by Monroe.

4. Andrew Jackson replaced about 919 of his government employees, rewarding his loyal followers and dumping the rest.

5. Zachary Taylor's body was exhumed in 1991 (I think that was the year) in order to verify that he died of natural causes. For years foul play was suspected.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

I heard that

1. On Weekend America I heard that Obama won the election (in part) because of the font he used. The Obama signs-they never changed font. This is important in such turbulant times when everything is changing around us so fast . . .

2. On This American Life, I heard that 24 dead people in Ohio were approved for mortgages.

3. At the grocery store this week, I heard a woman telling her daughter how to behave at "an adult party." "You say hello. Nice to meet you. And shake hands."

"Yes, you say nice to meet you even if it’s not nice to meet you. No, that's not the same as lying."

4. At Great Harvest a man in front of me was asking for the white dinner rolls, but they were sold out. "I'm allergic to wheat," he said sadly. "I can't have your brown rolls."

5. At a party the other night I learned that we are running out of gigabytes of gas. No matter what the price of oil . . .

6. At Starbucks my daughter overheard two young women talking. One said --"Now that Obama is elected, I need to buy a gun."
The other said . . . "Me, I'd like to be trophy wife."

7. My son tells me they sell hotdog flavored bubble gum in Berkeley. Just in case you want to have hotdog breath . . .

8. On New Years Eve a man told me he interviewed prospective students for Princeton University. One told him she wanted to be a marine biologist. How did you become interested in marine biology, he asked her. From watching Free Willy, she said.